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Opinion: Students can tolerate opposing political ideas without embracing them

I don't have to actively support someone's beliefs to be their friend

shaking hands stacy ver 2-100.jpg

"Civil discourse provides students with the opportunity to grow in their own political opinions, as well as learn to accept not everybody will think like them." Illustration on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.

Students should understand that tolerance is not the same as embracing someone’s beliefs. We can tolerate an individual, even befriend them, without giving credence or support to their political ideas.

The University is a diverse community filled with different political clubs on campus, meaning that there is a high chance of a student coming across individuals who hold different ideologies from them. 

President Michael Crow sent out an email statement Nov. 20 discussing free speech and how thoughts and ideas should be shared through civil dialogue.

“ASU has an opportunity to be a model for the rest of society," Crow said in the statement. "We can disagree without being disrespectful.” 

I would argue the beauty of listening to a montage of opinions, even opinions that may seem ridiculous to us, is that it encourages us to look beyond our political affiliations and see people for who they are outside of their political views.

The sentiment of looking beyond the political barrier is exemplified by Gabriella Varela, a junior majoring in geography and executive vice president of Young Democrats at ASU

Varela said she has befriended the vice president of Turning Point USA at ASU, a non-partisan conservative-leaning student organization.

“My best friend is a Republican,” Varela said. “A lot of times our friendship isn't necessarily politically based, but we still talk about politics a lot.”

Varela's friendship demonstrates how students can look past political differences and see people for who they are without having to indulge in beliefs they disagree with. 

Civil discourse provides students with the opportunity to grow in their own political opinions as well as learn to accept not everybody will think like them. This allows students the opportunity to grow in their own opinion and come closer to learning how to bridge the divide in campus politics. 

BridgeUSA at ASU is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to hearing discussion on all sides of the political, religious or whatever aisle students are on.

“We're human beings; our political beliefs aren't the totality of who we are as people,” said Justin Heywood, president of BridgeUSA at ASU and a senior studying political science and civic and economic thought and leadership.

Heywood said one of the most important things he’s learned since joining the organization is understanding that we can look past political differences.

"(Students) have a lot more in common than we might initially expect,” Heywood said.

It is easier to be friends with people you agree with meaning that there will be occasions when it will be harder to accept someone for their political differences. A study from political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood showed that people are willing to discriminate against those who identify with the opposing party. 

One current example of this is the conflict between those who support open borders and those who favor building border walls.

When it comes to addressing significantly different beliefs, it is not necessary to be great friends with individuals that have different political views, but at the very least people should be willing to hear why that student developed those beliefs. 

Tolerating the notion that students will have different ideas without necessarily embracing those beliefs is key to lessen the political divide. 

Understanding the difference between tolerating and embracing a topic is fundamental to this conversation. 

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, embracing means "to take up especially readily or gladly.” 

Tolerating, on the other hand, is defined as, “To allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance or contradiction; to put up with.”

Refusing to separate people from their political beliefs, even when we find those beliefs to be deeply and morally wrong, will only further divide the gap of politics

Robb Willer, a professor in sociology at Stanford University said in an interview with Stanford News, that people need a moral reframing — learning to reach out and empathize with other's beliefs. 

"Liberals and conservatives must take the time to really listen to one another, to understand one another’s values and to think creatively about why someone with very different political and moral commitments from their own should nonetheless come to agree with them," Willer said.

You have a right to your opinions, but it's important to understand why someone may hold their beliefs and tolerate that. That tolerance is what will lead to change. Students should be able to look through an objective lens as to why people may believe certain concepts and reach a point where we see one another beyond political or religious differences. 

“My ideas could be wrong, and I should be open to really understand(ing) people better,” said Kiryl Sheleg Turning Point USA at ASU treasurer and a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. 

Sheleg said he believes we shouldn’t force our ideas onto others but rather try to understand where people are coming from and expect the same in return.

Although the nation may be polarized, we don’t have to be. As a diverse community rich with different backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, ASU students should set the standard for the nation and show that students can hold true to their own beliefs while tolerating the philosophies of others. 

 Reach the columnist at or follow @Stacy_L_Anders on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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